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Government of Canada / Gouvernement du Canada


“Calling Men and Boys In”
What we heard: Report from the roundtables on engaging men and boys to advance gender equality

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Message from Minister for Women and Gender Equality and the Parliamentary Secretary

Maryam Monsef
The Honourable Maryam Monsef
Terry Duguid
Terry Duguid

Last summer, we travelled across the country to host a series of roundtable discussions on engaging men and boys on gender equality.

Advancing gender equality benefits all of us, including men and boys, and it is essential for creating lasting solutions to the challenges we face as a nation. These roundtables not only provided great insights on how we can move forward, they also gave us the opportunity to learn about many of the efforts that are already underway.

We learned, for example, about Indigenous men fasting to signal their commitment to end violence against women and girls. We heard about women’s organizations providing support services for men and boys who were survivors of sexual violence. We heard from groups working with young men on healthy sexuality, consent, and mental health. We learned about many different neighbourhood centres, businesses, academics and faith communities engaging with men and boys on a wide range of gender equality issues.

The Government of Canada is committed to challenging and helping to change outdated gender stereotypes, attitudes and behaviours. In so doing, we will continue to honour the work of women’s organizations, Indigenous leadership, and the long history of LGBTQ2 advocacy. Our work with men and boys needs to be in addition to our ongoing and critical work with women and girls.

We also appreciate that we cannot simply focus on the problems. We must look to solutions. And to do that, we need to bring men and boys into the conversation, because only by doing so will we foster action and lasting change.

This report is our effort to summarize the different viewpoints we heard, and to begin taking steps towards a federal strategy. We will ensure that our strategy is grounded in truth and reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples, including programs and services that are culturally relevant. Our approach must also include consideration of other intersecting identities such as disability, race, rural realities, gender identity, sexuality and socioeconomic status.

Many thanks to everyone who was part of this cross-country conversation and those who do this work each and every day. And special thanks to our team at Women and Gender Equality Canada (WAGE) who wove this all together. We learned that it takes great courage for the feminist movement to include men and boys, and that it takes courage for men and boys to stand up and lead with us. The task ahead will not be easy, but it will work if we are patient about the pace of change and diligent in our collaborations. Canadians have asked the Government to step up and, with this work, we are answering their call for federal leadership. We will lead by example. We will continue to convene collaborators to build relationships, and strengthen our supports and funding for existing best practices and new ways of doing the work. We look forward to taking what we have learned during this process and continuing our work to achieve gender equality.


The Honourable Maryam Monsef, P. C., M. P.
Minister of International Development and Minister for Women and Gender Equality

Terry Duguid, M.P.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Women and Gender Equality

Executive summary

Over 200 participants across the country gathered with Women and Gender Equality Canada at a series of roundtables to share their insight and expertise on engaging men and boys to work for gender equality. The participants represented a wide diversity of perspectives and life experiences, sectors and professions, and the geographic breadth of our country.

The roundtable discussions were consistently rich in content and candid in direction. The volume and diversity of input provided insight which allowed for the emergence of four thematic principles.

Theme 1: Identify persistent behaviours contributing to inequality to start unlearning them

Persistent, ingrained, and systemic beliefs and attitudes are at the core of gender inequality. Much work remains to be done in addressing these beliefs as a key to positive behaviour change. In doing so, we need to ensure no one is left out in this process. By starting from a place of mutual respect, and recognizing men’s different realities, this work can invite men in to be part of the solution.

Theme 2: Challenge and change negative norms, attitudes and behaviours through accountability and healing

Modelling positive actions and behaviours is the key to moving forward. This means we must create spaces where men can talk to each other, where they can make mistakes, and where they too can heal from historical and systemic trauma and violence. This will require a long-term, multi-prong approach that balances support and accountability.

Theme 3: Efforts must be sustained through building networks, sharing knowledge, and taking action

Many organizations and individuals heavily involved in this work communicated a sense of isolation and lack of connection. Accelerating and amplifying change could be achieved through greater collaboration, knowledge exchange and data collection. This was seen by participants as an area where the Government of Canada could play a valuable role.

Theme 4: Accountability and resource scarcity

No discussion of strategies to engage men and boys can take place outside the greater context of gender equality work with women and girls. An approach to engaging men and boys must not contribute to structural inequalities in funding for women and girls, and should acknowledge the leadership of the women’s and LGBTQ2 movements in guiding this approach.

These four themes validated the necessity to view engaging men and boys as one critical component of achieving gender equality for all. They serve to give guidance in the further development of a National Strategy to Engage Men and Boys.


The Government of Canada believes that if we are to build a stronger and more prosperous country we need to ensure that everyone has a real and fair chance to succeed. Outdated and long discredited concepts of gender play a major role in preventing many individuals from realizing their full potential. Women, girls, transgender, non-binary and Two-Spirit individuals face greater barriers to success and have access to fewer opportunities simply because of who they are.

To address this issue, the Government of Canada is taking a number of actions to advance gender equality and support an inclusive society. These include initiatives to reduce the gender wage gap, encourage more diverse participation in political and business leadership roles, address poverty and the lack of economic opportunity, support families to balance work and care responsibilities, and prevent and address gender-based violence.

Women and women’s organizations asked for more money to support their critical work in advancing gender equality, and our government has listened. Budget 2019 delivers for women, making an historic investment in women’s organizations, announcing $160 million over five years, and bringing the investment in women’s organizations to $100 million a year by 2023-24. This funding will enable women’s organizations and Indigenous organizations serving women to tackle systemic barriers impeding women’s progress, while recognizing and addressing the diverse experiences of gender and inequality across the country.

These efforts also include engaging Canadians on the benefits of gender equality, for example, by hosting a national forum on the importance of gender-based analyses of government programs and policies (GBA+), leading a national conversation on gender equality with young Canadians, and developing a strategy to encourage more men and boys to get involved in the discussion and take action on equality issues.

Women and Gender Equality Canada (formerly Status of Women Canada) embarked on a series of roundtable meetings with stakeholders across the country, asking them to share their experiences and insights on how best to engage men and boys, as well as the role of the federal government in advancing gender equality.

During these meetings it became clear that men and boys must be part of the discussion, in part because they too are harmed by outdated stereotypes of their own identities and, therefore, will also benefit from greater gender equality.

While the roundtables showcased the breadth of work already underway across Canada to engage men and boys on this issue, they also revealed many of the negative impacts that outdated concepts of gender can have on men and boys. Unrealistic societal and peer pressure to be “real men”, to always be the breadwinner, to refuse help because it shows weakness, or to respond with aggression to any challenge just because “that is what men do”. Research has shown these rigid gender stereotypes can lead to serious problems such as stress-related illnesses or substance abuse, and, in some cases, even suicide.

Engaging men and boys in gender equality and tearing down these rigid and harmful gender norms is an essential part of achieving better outcomes for women and girls, men and boys and non-binary people.

Roundtable participants were asked to provide their input on the core principles for engaging men and boys in advancing gender equality. They also discussed the barriers to engaging diverse groups of men and boys and shared information on successful models and practices. Participants were also asked to provide their views on the role of the federal government in this area. This report summarizes these discussions.

Why are we engaging men and boys as partners in gender equality?

“That ah-ha moment when men realized they are gendered and that gender inequality has impacts on themselves as well.”

Participant quote

Everyone is impacted by negative and outdated norms, attitudes and behaviours that can limit people’s ability to reach their full potential. We heard through the discussions that women and girls, LGBTQ2 and non-binary people still face significant barriers, such as discrimination, harassment, gender-based violence, and lack of access to opportunities.

Gender norms are the “standards and expectations to which women and men generally conform, within a range that defines a particular society, culture and community at that point in time”. (European Institute for Gender Equality)

We also heard that, while men and boys can benefit in a male dominated society, individual men and boys can also experience unfair societal expectations (in other words, projecting toughness, inability to express emotions, pressures of being a provider). Some men and boys can also be marginalized as a result of individual identity factors, such as their age, race, religion, education, sexual orientation and socio-economic status.

Men and boys can also be limited by restrictive ideas about masculinity and what it means to be a man. Engaging men and boys on this front can support better outcomes for them as well; through healthy communities and workplaces, balanced work and family responsibilities, and positive gender identities, expressions and relationships.

Movements such as #MeToo and #TimesUp have expanded the important discussions on the reality of unequal gender relations that benefit a few individuals but silence and harm many others. These discussions are revealing the abuses perpetrated by some men and are also demonstrating that negative attitudes and behaviour with respect to gender-based violence are more common than many realize. These movements have generated widespread and long overdue discussions among individuals, communities, companies and governments about the relationship between inequality and gender-based violence.

“It is an exciting time in Canada to really begin a necessary conversation around engaging men and boys about their identities as gendered persons and ‘what it means to be a man.’”

Jake Stika, Next Gen Men

Engaging men and boys as partners in gender equality is critical. Men and boys can support the conditions for women’s empowerment by working to change the biased attitudes, norms and behaviours that limit women’s opportunities and outcomes in the workplace, in the home and in the community. Most importantly, they can lead by example by rejecting violent behaviours toward women and girls and non-binary people and being willing to speak out whenever they see violence or harassment directed at women, girls or transgender or non-binary people.A movement is building between Canadians, governments and civil society. Internationally and domestically, it is increasingly recognized that achieving gender equality requires the participation of everyone, including men and boys. The United Nations Commission on the Status of Women calls for countries to “Fully engage men and boys to take an active part in achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls…”

Canada has a long history and an important opportunity to drive real, meaningful progress towards an equitable and inclusive society by engaging men and boys. A Canadian federal strategy on engaging men and boys to advance gender equality would make Canada a leader and would represent an important commitment to the creation of a more inclusive society that provides everyone with the opportunity to realize their full potential.

Roundtable discussions

The roundtable discussions brought together over 200 participants from across the country to share their experiences and insights on how best to engage men and boys to advance gender equality. Participants included representatives of community-based organizations working on a range of issues and programs related to men and boys’ engagement in gender equality as well as academics, community leaders and representatives of groups advocating persons with disabilities, LGBTQ2 people, seniors, Indigenous peoples, racialized communities, students, youth, faith-based organizations, the private sector, labour and others.

Roundtables took place in Winnipeg, Moncton, St. John’s, Surrey, Yellowknife, Montreal, Toronto and Ottawa. In addition to regionally-based discussions, thematic consultations were held on specific issues related to students, young Canadians and workplaces, as well as corporate engagement. The roundtables also consulted with LGBTQ2, as well as racialized, faith-based, newcomer and Indigenous communities. Individuals from these communities were also invited to participate in each regional roundtable to ensure diverse voices were heard in all locations.

What we heard

Roundtable discussions focused primarily on identifying core principles for engaging men and boys in advancing gender equality and sharing successful models and practices that help increase the participation of men and boys on this issue.

For the most part, we heard that engaging men and boys is critical to creating and supporting an inclusive society and that this work should reflect diversities among men and boys. Many stakeholders also said that men and boys’ voices must not be prioritized over those of women and girls, and that resources should not be diverted from the important work of organizations serving the needs of women and girls. It was clear from participants that there is an important role for government to demonstrate leadership, set standards, and ensure that our efforts have the objective of advancing gender equality.

Detailed comments received are organized under four themes below. Discussions also helped clarify key principles, which tend to align with particular themes.

Theme 1: Identify persistent behaviours contributing to inequality to start unlearning them

“It’s important to go to where men are and engage them there, and to create programming that is locally and culturally relevant to individuals. There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach. Different men and boys will be hooked by different ideas.”

Participant quote

We heard that a critical aspect around engaging men and boys is to help them unlearn the ingrained, persistent, and systemic causes of gender inequality. These include raising awareness of the impact of these inequalities on women, girls, non-binary people, and on men and boys themselves. It also includes challenging and changing rigid and outdated gender norms reflected in such expressions as “you throw like a girl”, or “boys don’t cry”.

Participants agreed that a great deal more needs to be done in this area. The ideas and values that result in discrimination and inequality are everywhere. Stakeholders told us that a strategy must include raising Canadians’ awareness that gender inequality persists, that men and boys are impacted by it, and that men and boys have a role to play in ending it. This work should be connected to culture and personalized to the context in which different men and boys live. It also means recognizing that men and boys have different understandings of, and access to, power and privilege. Indigenous men, men with disabilities, racialized men, gay, bisexual or transgender men may have a different lived experience than other groups, and also experience other harms based on identity.

Understanding that identity impacts how people relate to gender is critical to helping men and boys identify with the importance of working to advance gender equality, both individually and at a societal level. Roundtable discussions highlighted the complexities of identity and how different identity factors intersect with gender and sex. These include race, religion, age, ethnicity, differing abilities and exceptionalities, immigration status, sexuality, socioeconomic status, and others. This element is especially critical for working with Indigenous peoples, acknowledging the unique heritage and diverse cultures of First Nation, Inuit and Métis peoples.

There was general agreement that persistent inequalities affect women, girls, transgender and non-binary people. Participants emphasized that the first step to understanding why gender inequality still exists is identifying its roots (in other words, patriarchy, colonialism, racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and other forms of discrimination). These forms of discrimination create the norms and stereotypes that reinforce strict ideas of what “a man” should be (for example, men should be tough and not show emotion, be the breadwinner) and are reinforced throughout their lifetime. We heard that they continue to be present in the education system, in the workplace, on social media, and even in simple everyday interactions. They must be confronted to achieve progress in advancing gender equality.

Participants agreed that there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to engaging men and boys. A federal strategy needs to “meet men where they are” to help elevate positive masculinities and to help individuals unlearn sexist and harmful attitudes and behaviours.

Education is a critical part of this exercise. It was emphasized that education is more effective the earlier it starts, but we also heard that adults cannot be left out of the conversation because learning happens well in to adulthood and beyond formal classrooms.

Men also have different and important roles to play in advancing gender equality as gatekeepers of social norms, decision makers in institutions, fathers in families and influencers in communities. Giving real-life examples of how people experience inequality and discrimination was said to be a powerful tool for raising awareness and opening the doors for dialogue. Real stories, real challenges, and relatable people offering inspiration for change have proven to be successful ways to engage men and boys on gender equality.

Key principle:
Key findings:

Theme 2: Challenge and change negative norms, attitudes and behaviours through accountability and healing

“Who do boys really think they are? It’s powerful to watch young men break down masculinity and truly be themselves.”

Participant Quote

We heard that we need to support activities that help men and boys challenge and change society by promoting gender equitable behaviours. There were many best practices to support positive attitude and behaviour change among men and boys. For example, the use of role models has been particularly successful when engaging youth in conversations around healthy and positive behaviours (for example, community leaders, celebrities, athletes, faith-based leaders or Indigenous elders, coaches, and teachers).

Modelling positive action can also be effective to promote change in the business community. For example, highlighting corporations that have made commitments and progress related to gender equality can inspire their peers to follow suit. Calling businesses in, “name and fame” rather than “name and shame” was shared as the most productive way forward.

Healing and restorative approaches were also identified as essential. Listening to and being guided by the experiences of victims and survivors – including understanding the cycles of violence caused by trauma – is a form of justice that can repair harm. Indigenous communities, for example, have used restorative approaches for generations and some of these models are being used when survivors do not necessarily want to pursue legal remedies.

We also heard it is important for men and boys to have a safe space to ask questions and talk about issues such as healthy masculinities, diverse gender issues, and societal expectations and constraints associated with views of what it “means to be a man”. Participants highlighted that, while these spaces can be created in schools (for example, before or after school programs, school-based Gay-Straight Alliances), it is important that safe spaces also be created in other areas where men and boys frequent.

“As a society we are failing them [men and boys] by saying they can’t cry, that is where we fail. I show my young boys my outside personality, but it is also being compassionate, being able to cry and hug and [be] loving, that is what it is to be a man.”

JR Rose - Speaker/Advocate, BC Lion

We also heard about the importance of language, specifically that it must be accessible to and resonate with different groups of men and boys. Participants identified frameworks such as feminist, strength-based, faith-based, trauma-informed, harm reduction, as well as specific and successful approaches such as anti-black racism, to ensure language used is inclusive of different identities, faiths, cultures and backgrounds. Rural communities also require special approaches that address their location, their history, and any additional stresses.

In order to create healthy workplaces, participants told us that employers and labour organizations need to engage with and educate leaders and employees on the importance of gender equality. Discussions focused on how policies that promote gender equality can create positive change in workplace culture (for example, promoting equally shared parental leave among both spouses and gender responsive mentorship programs).

We also heard that increasing gender equal workplaces can result in more gender equal homes. For example, an increase in the uptake of men using parental leave can lead to an increase in the sharing of paid and unpaid work in households, and also have positive impacts on partners and children.

Key principles:
Key findings:

Theme 3: Efforts must be sustained through building networks, sharing knowledge, and taking action

“The Government can help by connecting people and ideas. Some organizations might want to start doing this work and have no idea how to get going, but there could be someone on the other side of the country who has already been there and has lots of advice.”

Participant Quote

Change can be made through building networks, sharing knowledge and taking action. Challenging and changing gender norms requires significant societal change and will take time. That being said, organizations highlighted that they need to begin by focusing their work on achievable outcomes at the community level. Sharing information, collaboration, and using best practices can accelerate the process.

Participants demonstrated the creativity, vibrancy, passion and commitment of equality-seeking movements in Canada. They also shared many strong models from across the country and around the world, and emphasized that roundtables such as these are important opportunities to share, learn and network for meaningful and sustained change.

Participants agreed that there is a role for the government in supporting research and knowledge creation, and in helping to translate and share information in support of a growing movement of organizations and individuals working to engage men and boys.

“This [roundtable] was great because I haven’t heard of all these other agencies, being in another place, the [East] coast. But BC and Ontario are talking about what they have achieved, so we don’t have to reinvent anything. We just need to connect, so we can be like ‘I know who to call’. I need to know who I can work with, who can benefit this community, who I’m going to learn and connect with. We need to work with our community, as service providers, and check our ego. We need to be inclusive.”

Diedre Smith, The New Brunswick Multicultural Council

We heard from each roundtable that there were additional benefits to these discussions in providing networking opportunities and in the connections individuals and organizations were able to make during the sessions. A number of individuals indicated that the roundtables provided a space for colleagues from across the country to connect, share best practices and lessons learned, and create networks and partnerships to amplify and strengthen their efforts.

A significant challenge remains with the limited data currently available on attitudes and norms, especially data segregated by identity factors. While it is critical to build up the evidence base, participants highlighted that communities need to be involved in the process in order to ensure that it is based on on-the-ground experiences and that the data is useful to organizations.

Participants highlighted that federal departments must not work independently of one another on the issue and that the Government of Canada is only one actor among many working to engage men and boys in efforts to advance gender equality. We heard that the provincial, territorial and municipal governments, civil society and grassroots organizations all have equally important roles to play and that internal and external partnerships are necessary.

Engaging men and boys is only one component in the greater goal of achieving gender equality. Issues such as pay equity, affordable housing, income inequality, poverty, reducing the wage gap, systemic discrimination against Indigenous peoples, improving childcare, ending workplace harassment, and providing adequate healthcare were also seen as critical factors in addressing gender inequality.

Key principles:
Key findings:

Theme 4: Accountability and resource scarcity

“This work cannot take away from the focus, funding, need and support for women’s organizations, instead it has to complement them to effectively achieve gender equality.”

Participant Quote

The question of resources has been a longstanding concern in the women’s movement when it comes to working with men and boys. Participants voiced concerns that much remains to be done to advance gender equality in Canada beyond engaging men and boys and that funding for engaging men and boys must come from new sources and not take away from women’s organizations.

We also heard that expanding gender equality resources for men and boys must honour the goals and recognize the leadership of the women’s movement and the efforts of LGBTQ2 advocacy movements.

Many organizations, including those with a primary mandate of supporting services for women and girls are already working on the issue but new funding is needed to support specific projects and initiatives that engage men and boys. A lack of sustained funding for this work, makes knowledge retention, scaling up, and staffing a challenge. Participants emphasized the need for increased support and access to funding and pointed out that current funding models, such as short term project-based funding, are not sustainable.

“I think engaging men and boys in issues of gender equality is necessary, and while doing that in a way that looks at what the root causes of gender-based violence really are, it is necessary for men and boys to be connected to their local women’s organizations and for them to ask ‘what can I do to help?’”

Annie Chau, Project Coordinator, Antigonish Women’s Resource Centre & Sexual Assault Services Association

Key principles:
Key findings:

The path forward – A role for the Government of Canada

The roundtables were clear: Men and boys are an integral part of achieving gender equality in Canada. Guided by the pioneering work of the women’s movement and LGBTQ2 organizations, participants stated that we must work to challenge attitudes and behaviours that lead to gender inequality so that all people in Canada have an equal and fair chance to live up to their full social and economic potential.

This report summarizes a number of key findings across a wide range of issues raised by stakeholders. From these findings, we have identified three overarching roles for the federal government in any new strategy:

Be a leader

Participants called for the federal government to play a leadership role and demonstrate progress on gender issues, as an employer and a major institution. It can also play an active role in amplifying and spreading norms, attitudes and behaviours that promote gender equality. By grounding activities under a strategy to engage men and boys in a set of principles, the Government can help ensure that the objectives of gender equality and a healthier, more inclusive society are advanced.

Be a convenor

Changing gender norms, behaviours and attitudes will require sustained commitment over time. This requires collaboration with other government partners, other levels of governments, non-governmental organizations and civil society to build healthy communities together.

The federal government can facilitate collaboration in a flexible way that acknowledges the intersectionality of men and boys’ issues. This will require us to meet men and boys where they are, both in their lived experiences and in their existing understanding of gender equality.

Furthermore, we will look at the role that men and boys need to play in gender equality efforts, in the home, community and workplace, in order to make sustainable progress towards addressing gender-based inequalities and inequitable social norms.

Be a supporter and funder

Where possible, the federal government should fund and support activities that raise awareness and help organizations to grow capacity. These investments should be sustainable, and focus on activities that address the root causes of gender inequality.

Additionally, research, evidence sharing and improved data are necessary to build long-term knowledge and networks for promoting gender equality. There is a strong role for the federal government to play in establishing frameworks and sharing best practices that can be used widely.


We want to thank all those who took time to provide their thoughts on a strategy, and assure them that their expertise and efforts are highly valued. This report will set the stage for the Government of Canada’s next steps to engage men and boys as partners in advancing gender equality.

The input was essential in giving guidance to areas of concern and consideration, and to showing the potential and promise of engaging men and boys in gender equality. We witnessed a vibrant, diverse, and passionate community of actors all working towards our shared vision of a future where everyone can reach their full potential.

Most importantly, we heard loud and clear that men are an essential part of the solution. Gender equality is the key to progress for women and girls and non-binary people, but is also essential for men and boys. As more men and boys are called into the conversations on gender equality and encouraged to act, the outcomes for everyone will be vastly improved, and everyone will benefit.

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